Coming face to face with death six years ago when a crook tried to rob her hair salon, Haitian-American hair stylist Sabine Bellevue, did not think she would be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her natural hair salon, Sabine’s Hallway.
Now thriving at a new location in Bedford-Stuyvesant, she recalls the incident that changed her life.
“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt — I was really thinking of everyone else’s safety and that’s why I put myself out there,” said Sabine Bellevue, hair stylist and founder of Sabine’s Hallway. “I didn’t want to tell their families something happened.”
In October 2010 a teen gunman entered her small salon — then located in Clinton Hill — with the intention to rob her. With luck on her side, one of her clients getting her hair done that night was off-duty veteran cop Feris Jones. The cop exchanged gunfire with the 19-year-old suspect, successfully disarming him and foiling the robbery. The suspect fled but was caught and was given a 20-year sentence. The cop was promoted to detective a few days later and continued to get her hair done at the salon, said Bellevue.
“We’re still very good friends,” she said. “Nothing had changed since that experience and she still came back to do her hair and continued to be a loyal client.”
Detective Feris Jones has since retired to her native Barbados. But despite the loyalty of the cop who saved her life, Bellevue said she had a hard time adjusting when police investigations forced her shop to close for two months, and when she returned to work felt that the news stories had given her bad press and affected the possibility of attracting new clients.
“I would cry and have thoughts in my mind like ‘why was I still here?’” she said. “It was very surreal when I stepped into the places where bulletholes were shot.”
Since the incident, Bellevue made it a mission to be more involved in her community, reaching out to non-profit organizations to teach free classes, and providing opportunities to the youth with her internship program. She felt this can prevent young teens from falling on the wrong track.
“The young man didn’t know me, but he lived a few blocks away,” said Bellevue. “Maybe if he had known who I was, then he wouldn’t have tried to rob me. So I want to support my community, because maybe he needed a job.”
But aside from the rough start, she was able to find gratitude in new clients.
“At the beginning, business was slow but I had my loyal clients that stuck with me through my transitions. But it hurt me a bit — I have one lady who didn’t come back and others left but didn’t tell me the reason why,” said Bellevue. “But a lot of times people find us through the internet and the pictures that come up is the robbery. I have clients from all over — people still come to me and tell me they saw the story online.”
Sabine’s Hallway was founded in 2006 when Bellevue took her styling creativity to a permanent space. Even after the close call with death, she spent two more years at the location of the incident before moving her shop to Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Opening a natural hair salon catering to locs, braids, and textured hair during a time it was not common was a risk, but even now in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, Bellevue says her business has never been better.
“It’s been good — I made it to 10 years,” she said. “I’m pushing through and going for another 10 years. As long as I can be here I’d like to provide for my clients and be there for them.”
As her salon continues to grow in staff, Bellevue hopes to open more locations and be a focal figure in her community, as she studies to become a personal health coach. Bellevue hopes to make a trip to Haiti next year to style hair for rural women.